You may recall 3 months ago there was a fraudulent charge on our old card we never use.
We just cleared that up like last week. It took about 5 calls to get the last $2 off the stupid card. How annoying, huh?
That one was an odd one because it is a card we had not used in years.
In fact, they were so obnoxious about the whole thing (gave us lots of runaround, particularly over the last $2) that I was ready to cancel the card. I told dh to just cancel the thing. I Was pretty peeved.
Well, today I am glad I didn't. It's the "backup" card that I don't think I have ever had to use. But I got gas yesterday, scanned my 25 cent coupon (25 cent per gallon) and threw it in the large (tall) trash.
Of course, my card was denied. I tried again, I figured I put in zip wrong. But it was denied. In the process I lost my 25 cent coupon. I am usually more superstitious about hanging onto it until I pump my gas, so I was pretty peeved at that point.
I dug out the old State Farm card I had threatened to cancel last month and hoped it would go through. I had absolutely no gas in the tank though I had enough cash to buy 3 gallons at least.
IT went through.
I knew dh was getting ice cream with the kids so I wondered if he had just charged at the same moment or something. I called him and he hadn't paid yet so I warned him card may be declined. HE told me he had just filled the van at the same gas station, earlier in the day anyway, so maybe it just looked suspicious that we both filled up within hours.
Well, his ice cream purchase went through fine. I figured I had entered the zip code wrong. I'd been able to just try again in the past, but who knows. IT seems we had both filled up on the same day before.
Well, this morning Chase called. They had a $1.95 charge and a $17 charge that we did not recognize. Seemed minute overall, but for whatever reason it tripped their fraud alert. (Don't ask me why they allowed the "rare" ice cream purchase to go through but not gas at the gas station we use every week).
So they closed the cards and we will get new ones in a few days. Our tanks are full, pantry is full, and all that, so I expect we will just not buy anything until they arrive.
I am glad everything I ordered online was already shipped and charged. Phew!
Dh said we will have to notify everyone who charges our card automatically. I don't like that whole automatic charge thing and only our gym does. Funny enough, DISH does too, though we told them we did not want them to do it that way. So um, yeah, I don't think we will be giving Dish our NEW credit card #. Muahahaha to those idiots. We'll pay them what we owe them (by check) but I think we will drop them this month and hell if I am giving them my credit card # again. Just chalk it up to one more reason why I am not a Dish fan. The timing is rather sweet in that regard.
For us, this is the first time our main every day credit card has ever been breached. For that, you could call us lucky. But for me it's the 3rd time in the last year I have suffered some form of credit card fraud. I don't think I could be more careful with my info so it is REALLY frustrating. All the carefulness in the world does nothing when the keepers of your info are so NOT careful. BAH to them.
I do know the point when I jinxed myself. I was trying to talk Ms. PReschool into online bill pay and she was wary of online stuff like that. I told her I had only had my one major identity fraud BUT that had nothing to do with anything online. Nowhere online do I have stored my name, address, maiden name, birth date, and SS#. My suspicion all along has either been financial institution or government agency (IRS?) security breach. But yeah, if you breached my bank account online you couldn't find my birth date or SS#.
Anyway, so I told her I had NEVER had issues with online bill pay or online credit card purchases, and I think within the week I had that last credit card breach.
Color me jinxed...
I find it suspicious I did just do a lot of online purchases. Then again, it just may have nothing to do with it. Who knows...
Will never know because the credit card companies could care less about tracking down these criminals. Just a cost of doing business. Like this piddly $20 in charges means a hoot to them? Not. THey seem pretty unconcerned when strangers opened cards and ran up $5k bills ($5k per creditor) in my name. Just as piddly in their eyes.
Viewing the 'ID Theft' Category
You may recall 3 months ago there was a fraudulent charge on our old card we never use.
I could deal with ebay, and probably still can, since they are a large marketplace. BUT I am none too happy with our experience all the same.
2 non-payers in 2 weeks (maybe selling 5 things a week, in a recent pace = mostly video games and accessories).
The first was kind of a long story, but the second person just fell off the face of the earth. What is our recourse? Sit and wait. We can close it amicably and go resell since he hasn't gotten back. But SCREW that. This person needs a mark against their account. To do so means give it time. In the end he can pay and I don't know if it will even matter. I don't understand what recourse sellers really have. I guess we need to educate ourselves more since this is becoming all too common. (20% of sales, for this month?).
Anyway, today someone retracted a bid. It wasn't a huge deal. The whole thing was rather fishy to me though since we had never seen the bid show up in the first place. Maybe it was immediately retracted. Said it was placed the 29th and removed the 31st, according to a notice.
Anyway, doesn't seem to have affected anything, since we never saw this high bid (they did not show up as highest bidder last we looked). BUT the person had to nerve to say they retracted our bid because we changed our listing.
It just peeved us. & there just doesn't seem to be a lot of recourse - though we did file a complaint. Wish the idiot just said he typed it in wrong. He clearly just wanted to retract his bid. We don't make it a habit to change our listings, and overall thought that was pretty impossible anyway, once you had bids.
So mostly, had to gripe.
Still good money and dh has time to deal with all the annoyances. Like I said, I mostly think we need to educate ourselves more. But I am really *getting* all the ebay complaints now. We aren't exactly high volume sellers. I think I Would go crazy if we were...
Well, I am making the first step into the waters of credit card deep freeze.
I am still not sure about dh's credit.
Mine NEEDS to be frozen. I am peeved at what little regard creditors have for fraud alerts on credit reports. Mine have been respected (as far as I know) but I have heard a few too many stories. & from my ID theft experience, it is clear that the creditors could care less.
I mean, I Seriously got an advertisement in the mail from Zales about how I am one of their best customers. Bite me! I was never your friggin customer. Since the thieves opened 7 different retail cards I get all sorts of crap like this. Just an example of how much I hate all those creditors' guts. They think now is a good time to reel in the real me - look at my credit score - they WANT me! IT's plain as day what little regard they have for ID theft victims. I am now just a business opportunity.
I have the recourse to freeze my credit free of charge, so this is the route I have finally chosen to do.
I was kind of waiting for my free credit monitoring to kick in (lawsuit settlement against one of the bureaus?) but it is taking so freaking long and the credit monitoring I have paid to deal with this the last year just went up from $12.95 to $14.95/month.
It was pretty impossible to combat the ID thieves without monitoring. A free report every year does NOT cut it. Each bureau reports different items.
But I think now that things have settled down, I have enjoyed the security.
So this did it. I saw the increased charge over the weekend and I called to cancel. Boy were they annoying. Their last ditch plea was to charge me 1/2 price for 3 months. Whatevah.
But I already paid for September so it gives me a month to just freeze my credit. I will give it a whirl.
I am kind of tempted to leave dh's credit opened so at least one of us has some open credit. But I am also extra petrified of his identity getting stolen, and worse, someone getting a mortgage in our name or something (since we do have equity - it is the up and coming crime against those with equity and high credit scores - 2 strikes against us). I can't think, "IT will never happen to us." Instead I probably think too much, "It will happen to us." Since it already has.
So it will cost $30 to freeze his credit, and a fee to unfreeze it for anything. But for the long run, it's cheaper and more proactive anyway. Technically no one can issue credit whereas with the monitoring you are just informed after someone stole and used your data.
From a credit standpoint it is no biggie. No plans to borrow money. If so it would be something we would have plenty of time to unfreeze. I am more worried from an insurance and job search standpoint. Everything from this point will be a PITA. Dh had his credit checked for our satellite switch and mine was just checked over the weekend with our new phone setup. So you realize how often this stuff comes up, regardless if you use debt.
But will be worth it for peace of mind. I think. We'll give it a whirl.
Anyway, between that and our new cell phone arrangement, will save $45/month. That is good...
Anyway, not much else going on. Just crappy stuff like this...
Well, I got it in writing that all those cards were fraudulent, except one. Still waiting on Macy's. I will call them, but I figure the second I call them is the second it shows up in the mail. So I am biding my time before I make the effort.
So pretty much all cleared. My credit report seems cleared up enough so I figure I would ask for a credit increase on my balance transfer card. I have around $5k borrowed and dh has $10k. But his will have to be paid off in a few months, and we get 5.7% until end of 2008. Definitely taking advantage. So I would like to borrow $10k when we pay off his. Or heck, might as well get it now... Before interest rates decrease more. I guess I could earn 4.5% in the interim, and then once dh's is paid I would figure I would be earning 5.7%.
Anyway I haven't borrowed on one card and I should also take advantage before they retract it, but they only have me $5k limit - "until I was a customer for 6 months." Blech. I was filing paperwork yesterday and saw they sent me that note 6 months ago.
So I popped online and applied for a credit increase. They asked me a gazillion questions - hard credit pull - small price to pay to make another $50/month without lifting another finger after applying.
So the card company called about 1/2 hour later. They are obnoxious and call all the time about buying their payment protection plans and all that and usually dh tells them to buzz off. BUT ever since my ID theft I have to take the calls, in case it is important. IT never is.
I grumbled as dh handed me the phone. Getting ready to say if they called me on more flipping time I am closing my card or something.
But alas, they were calling because they pulled my credit report and saw the fraud alert. Just checking to see if it was indeed me. I thanked them profusely. Yes, Citi paid attention. Glad to know.
Also when I applied online they said 7-10 days, but the guy was like, um yeah, you'll be approved within the hour... So yay credit report.
I should log online and check. Might as well do that balance transfer. Make sure the terms haven't changed.
I also shared all this to say I was really happy with the balance transfer process.
I was worried about universal default with the ID theft and was going to talk to WAMU about it, but then WAMU sent notice they are no longer doing universal default. Phew. It's been the only real hiccup. I worried how my bad credit report in the interim could affect well standing accounts. But I Was able to clean it up quickly enough.
But overall I have been really happy. I haven't even set up to pay everything automatically. I just pay the minimum balance the day I get the bill. I keep so on top of my bills it seems to work.
If I could do over again I would have made better notes when I took the BTs and when they were due. I know dh's is 9 months and I can see in Quicken when I got the check, but I didn't write all this down. Duh. As time passes, I am thinking, when is this one due? I went back and documented best I could in Quicken. As the time gets closer I need to pay more attention. I figure I will pay it a month or 2 early to avoid issue. I have no idea how the credit card company measures 9 months, and I am sure it is in their favor. So um yeah. I will be paying off dh's in February or so, and mine in June (Expires in July?). & I believe this new one is for a year but I will have to go refresh my memory. If it is for a year and I do it now, I can take full advantage of my 5.7% CD.
If I paid all these back it would leave me with about $11k in a CD and $1k in cash. My emergency fund anyway - we have some other cash... So I would like to string these out until my CD expires.
Once my CD expires and we pay all these back. That's it. Closing all the cards. Checking our credit. Laying low for a while... If when all was said and done and our credit scores weren't affected, I would do it again. But I am not going to have 10 open cards. I always close my unused cards. I just find it easier that way. My credit score is better for it I find.
I expect a bit of a blip on the score with all this borrowed money. PArticularly when I borrow $15k in my name through next summer. I don't mind taking the hit temporarily. But I would take the time to clean it up before I considered doing another balance transfer. I care less about it in the short term. But I care enough about it in the long run to not just do BT after BT after BT.
I think if dh and I both just borrowed $10k it was a good plan. Vs. one of us borrowing a large sum. So far neither of our scores have taken a hit. Maybe a hit, but they are still well over 750 so who cares. But I can't say borrowing another $10k will help my score any. But the cash has been really helpful in building back up our efund, and we'll take advantage for one more year.
I would be happy enough with the balance transfer process without the CD. But I always knew there was a risk interest rates would go down. BUT I just happened to have this 5.7% CD offer from my credit union right after I did my first balance transfer. Talk about luck. I can renew it at 5.7% for another 8 months comes March or so. Until my last BT expires. Just "perfect."
So yeah, my strategy until then is just save more cash. Then I will have to come up with a new plan for the efund. I am certainly not going to tie most of it up in a 8-month CD again. Was strictly for the balance transfers. Will have to evaluate some CD laddering options and such going forward. Who knows how things will be in a year.
Well this is a dumb story:
"Once Housing Turns, Recovery could be Fast."
Oh I am only too aware of this. I have mentioned many times here, we put up our condo like the day before 9/11 and ended up in 2-house hell for quite a few months. But our refi of the condo (to pull out the down payment for our home) happened to end right before the first weekend of recovery. After months of low asking prices and nothing, we raised the price a bit and sold in a day with competing offers. We had to take it off the market 3 months for the refi and the timing couldn't have been better when we put it back up. Oh yeah, that's the real estate market I know. So um yeah, in California, when things turn, they turn fast. You could get left in the dust.
Also, large returns here have been sustained for many decades. So all very viable. Not sure it is the end of the line for California...
BUT this article is insane. It's kind of like, "get ready, because things are going to go back to the bubble any day now. Yippee!"
I say, eh, give it a good 5 years at the least. Yeesh! Just seems to be jumping the gun a bit. I didn't read the 60 comments yet on the article but will probably be good reading. Will probably add my own too.
I am at a loss what all the freakout is really. I am trying to think - we have been here a good 6 years. Our house would sell EASY for a good 50% more than we paid. That is still a good solid 7% return per year. If you bought earlier you'd have a good solid 10% per year return. So basically only people who bought in the last couple of years are screwed. ???? & the economy is crumbling? Oh yeah, all the ARMs and borrowed equity. Like you couldn't see that would end ugly. Just plain, bad short-term thinking. I kind of wish we lived in a bubble so when the house of cards came tumbling we wouldn't be affected, but I always knew that would be a pipe dream. Well I did talk a few people out of ARMs (& yes they are very thankful today). I did what I could...
In other news, just wanted to say, I got contact on 6 of the 7 cards (ID Theft) that everything is resolved. Got it all in writing. I'll give the last card another week and then call and see what is going on. Luckily that card is only $900 or so. The smallest of the bunch. Maybe why they are dragging their feet a bit. I actually got 5 of them this last week, and one before my trip. One more to go.
I have to say that it wasn't so bad to clean it up. IT would be even better to see justice served one of these days, but won't hold my breath. Well, it has been exactly 3 months. I will probably wait until January and then double check all my credit reports. They said give it 6 weeks. My FICO is in the 770 range as of today. (Balance transfers and all. sick of hearing how that will ruin your credit score. You just have to know how to play the game!!)
P.S. I have seen this blog before (Very interesting). This last week he posted that 1/3 of the homes currently for sale in this area are foreclosures and short sales. Eeks! The newspaper is a mess of these statistics, as well as "things will be better tomorrow" articles. Guess it's covering all bases.
I got my second clearance from the mail - Macy's. 2 down and 5 to go. (Really like 2 more to go since Sears cleared me which was under Citibank with 3 other cards. Lord knows what is taking the other 3 so long. But if Citi admits that card is fradulent, then the rest should follow).
VEry slow going. It's been about 60 days.
I also got my true FICO score update and it is up to 757 from 685 last month. MUCH better. Most of the false stuff has been removed from my credit report (though 1 is now showing up on Experian). I am just waiting to get confirmation that I am released from all responsibility and then will have to pull my reports again and, hopefully 1 final time, ask to remove all the false stuff.
That credit score is with my balance transfer. I imagine it will shoot back to the 800s once I pay it off. In the meantime I said a million times I am not worried about the BTs when it comes to my credit score. It's nice to see my feelings about it were spot on. I figured even if it dropped low it would be quite temporary. But it looks like overall it has affected my score little.
Well hopefully in the next month I can close this chapter in my life. No more "ID Theft" updates would be nice.
& 6 to go?
I got mail from Macy's and they said give me 60 days for them to "investigate." Blech. I think they told me that 60 days ago...
But then I got a letter from Sears. ID Theft resolved. Card closed for good. Off my report. Out of my name. Woohoo.
Sears is under Citi along with 3 other cards so I hope that means all of those are pretty much taken care of.
Of the other 3, at least none of them were bigger balances. Well Lowes was big but I haven't heard anything from them in ages. I'll have to check the paperwork, I get the feeling maybe that one was squared away too. I don't really care if they rid me of responsibility from the card with $0 balance (mush as it shouldn't be any sweat off their back to just let it go) so I am least worried about that one. Mostly leaves Macy's which was the smallest balance at $900 or so...
Oh yeah I got a Macy's statement as well (in the meantime while they take 60 days to figure out it obviously wasn't me). But with this one they were nice enough to not have a minimum payment (like Zales). No payments for a while I guess? What is more disturbing - that you could get $25k credit so easy, or that you can get $25k credit so easy and you don't pay any payments for x months? Yeesh. I think since it is California and I filed a police report that the Credit Bureaus would block the info from my report even if the credit company recorded non-payments in the interim. So that is nice. The credit bureaus seemed to block this info easily enough without the "investigations being complete." But for the most part it looks like it will all be cleared up before any payments would be due (knock on wood).
In other news yesterday I read something like 85% people pay more payroll taxes than income taxes. WOW! I actually looked at the site referenced and only found a 45% figure (which is still big). The Tax Policy Institute or something. I thin with the 85% figure they were trying to say that workers really shoulder the employer portion of social security by taking lesser wages so their employers could pay it. There is probably much truth to that. Must be the way accountants think since I think that about everything. You take from here it has to come from somewhere...
We are most certainly in this percentage though - our social security taxes are double our income taxes. & I am sure there are many in that situation. I think sometimes when people complain about the taxes coming from their checks they don't realize exactly what is coming out of their checks.
I almost fell over listening to Dave Ramsey yesterday. For one he was annoying me because he was going on and on how only idiots even mention pets in their wills (well it was an older podcast). I was thinking about scfr's post about making arrangements for your pets - just make sure they are cared for, etc. I don't think it is an idiotic thing at all. Not everyone who thinks of their pets leaves billions to their pets (well most wouldn't obviously - hehe). Then he was screaming at all us morons for having credit cards for ease of use. I just rolled my eyes. Some lady called all appalled that a financial advisor at her kids' school recommended getting cards and paying them every month to build credit. Of course he freaked out. But he doesn't get that people need a credit score. I know those people who never had a card in their life and couldn't buy a house. Couldn't finance a car when things went bad. It really doesn't help average joe blow to be so adverse to the idea of a card. Sure why not pay inflated insurance premiums just because you have no credit. (Doesn't sound very smart). Then again maybe we should be fighting the system. Anyone who can get through life with no credit, well they can't be doing that bad, can they? I guess it could be an indicator of both extremes. But it seems like it could be relatively easy enough to be audited or something as an alternative to prove credit-worthiness. If you feel that strongly about the credit industry, I agree there probably should be some other alternatives to major credit risk. It's a mess. This 3 Credit Bureau is just driving me insane with this ID theft thing. Why the hell are there 3 Bureaus?????? Makes life 3 times harder for me. So to an extent I am for fighting the system. But in the meantime I don't find it that hard to just play along.
Anyway, I went on a tangent. I almost fell over when Dave said that the value of your cars should be no more than 50% of you annual gross income. I almost choked. Thought I heard wrong. So I looked it up. & yes that is what he recommends. Of course since he recommends paying cash I guess mostly we are on the same page. But 50% just seems awfully generous. (We've spent most of our lives well under 10%. & with 2 "new" cars today we are squarely at 25% and looking at no new cars for like a decade - so it will shrink back to our 10%
average soon enough).
I thought wow this is generous coming from Dave. I wonder what most financial gurus recommend. Just out of curiosity. So I looked and I saw the recommendation that car payments should be no more than 15% - 20% of your take-home pay, on a monthly basis. For one, what financial guru bases car affordibility based on payments? Blech. But 20%. Are they serious???????? I assure you this included no expenses but the car payments. I reread the articles looking for clues - they must be talking insurance, license and all. But no, this was just payments.
So that puts us at $750-$1k monthly car payment we could afford? Are they insane? No way. We maybe put away $400/month on average towards our next car purchases (2). & I have to say we have never had this kind of money for a car before. This is like as good as it gets for us. I could never see spending more. When we made six figures we bought an $8 car. We just don't get the whole car thing. It's a VERY nice car by the way. Small, but nice.
But it's ironic. I have been wanting to buy a $5k 3rd car. We couldn't justify keeping our convertible when we had our first child (insurance and all) but I feel we are getting much closer to buying another very nice, used convertible. By Dave's standards I could afford a $18k car I guess. I mean, heck, I do have the cash.
It's funny because we were watching a show the other day where a husband gave a really nice convertible to his wife on her 40th birthday. I was telling dh, hint hint hint. What a nice birthday present. I said how about at 35? LOL.
Nah, I am going to wait until I can pay cash for a nice $5k car. & fully fund our retirement. Maybe in 5 years. PErhaps. It's harder right now with dh's car being so reliable and worthless at the same time. No collission insurance. I can't really justify spending the cash for a car if his car could be totaled tomorrow and we could need it for that. Then again I would have a car for him to drive. HE would just hate it and we would prefer it be a car that the kids don't ride in for now. So it will be a few years...
But yeah, I realize these are maximums. But they just seem insane to me. Of course the sad thing is that most people I know would find these "rules" rather restrictive. I guess it's some middle ground to give a wake up call to people really buying more than they can afford, but throwing a bone to those who want new cars every few years. We could buy some 2 really nice cars on credit with $1k monthly payments. For sure. I am so glad we put all that money to our house instead though. Phew.
Experian just sent me a notice that they blocked all my info.
I thought my free trial had expired (which is stupid because basically you can't get anything free for the free trial - now I can check my experian report daily if I like - and check my fako score (is not a true FICO score). But the past score was in line with my true FICO score so overall I think it is reasonable. I've seen some weird fakos in the past (like that go up to 900??? Not in line with fICO of course).
So I checked and indeed my free trial was up. I thought they would have e-mailed me - what a bunch of annoying bastards (sorry). For one it is not free because they won't let you check your score again until after the free period. Then they don't even e-mail you to tell you your free period is up. I Was starting to get aggravated since I figured it was up today or tomorrow and had checked the website yesterday with no luck.
But today, yes, "free" credit report and fako score. I should be able to check tomorrow too if I like.
My FAKO score a few days after the ID theft was around 725 (hit anyway with my balance transfer) but today is a pretty 780. So woohoo.
The true test will be what TransUnion reports my FICO score to be through WAMU. Signing up for that card was SO worth it for the monthly FICO updates. Heck, I would recommend opening an account at WAMU just for that. (The 0% balance transfer doesn't hurt either).
But balance transfer and all my score seems to be back to normal. I am sure it will get back to 800 when we pay off these balance transfers.
Oh but this was the beautiful part of my fako score:
" Listed below are the top factors that lowered your score. They are listed in order of importance.
Credit scores are calculated based on various factors in your credit report. Currently, your credit report does not show any significant negative or derogatory information. You can be proud of the fact that you are building a good credit history, so continue with your positive credit behavior!"
Oh it's nice to get things cleared up and back to "normal."
I really believe having an excellent score to start means that this whole thing was barely a blip on the radar. (& not having lots of debt either as I could have been slammed by universal default and stuff like that).
I am just not sure if this is over yet. My info is still out there. We'll see...
& when you have a good score, close your oldest accounts, take balance transfers, blahdeblah, who cares. So my score was in the 750 range for a few weeks. It is back to normal and I still have most of the entire balance transfer outstanding. It's just dropped down enough with the $200 or so paid off that it is no longer affecting FICO negatively. With the regular payments it will only help my score. I really do think people with good scores try to overthink FICO. Pay your bills on time, don't take on more debt than you can handle, and the little stuff will not kill your score. Believe me I have done EVERYTHING wrong when it comes to FICO this last year - but I don't really care. Even the ID theft didn't slay me. IT was 685 which made me nervous, but wasn't bad all the same.
Well, I hope FICO agrees - I'll found out in a few weeks with my next WAMU statement.